Project: Snowblind was published by Eidos and developed by Crystal Dynamics, best known for the Blood Omen/Legacy of Kain series along with the Gex platformer series. Project: Snowblind was developed for the PC, Playstation 2 and Xbox. This review is the Xbox version.
The story of Project: Snowblind is a run-of-the-mill toms about a scientist with a big weapon threatening global destruction. You are Nathan Frost, a member of the Liberty Coalition army. Early in the game, you are "killed" and a la the Bionic man, you are rebuilt as a cyborg. The story gets convoluted and secondary to the action, but since the gameplay is enjoyable, it's forgivable. The story is told through a series of very impressive cutscenes and in-game through other characters in proximity a la Half-Life. It's a commonly used tactic and is effective as long as it doesn't bog down the action, which it doesn't in Project: Snowblind. It's clear, the designers knew the game was about the action.
This is the area where Project: Snowblind really shines. And thankfully it is the most important aspect of any game.
The main aspect that sets the game apart from any other FPS on the Xbox is the sheer number of weapons, gadgets and augmentations available. the guns are varied but not groundbreaking. We have pistols, machine guns, and each of them has a secondary fire controlled by the left trigger. Lob an explosive from the carbine or shoot a sticky bomb from the shotgun. Best of all is the HERF gun which fires at and disables the electronic devices. The alternate fire is a globe that auto-fires at any enemies in the vicinity. Attach it to the spider grenade and watch it run around destroying a room full of enemies.
along with a variety of weapons, you are able to find a large number of explosive devices such as grenades. These are flash bombs, gas grenades, riot walls and a few other goodies. Some of these are staples of FPS titles and some are original. In addition, as you progress through the game, you learn to augment your bionic suit. These augmentations include a shield, night vision, and a few others, My personal favorite was the ability to slow time down to better blast a large group of enemies. Again, nothing we haven't seen in other titles. but the combine the amount of weapons, grenades and augmentations into on title makes for varied and extremely enjoyable gameplay.
But with all of these devices, comes a problematic control scheme. I have to credit Crystal Dynamics for making a scheme that is functional and easy to use, but if you are used to the typical Halo style of controls, you might have to re-learn. For example, since throwing grenades uses the black button, I often found myself reverting back to Halo in the thick of battle. Instead of throwing a grenade, I'd find myself in a crouch state. Thankfully, the basics are there such as using the right trigger for shooting and the A button for jumping. but the melee attack is clicking the left thumbstick. Cycling weapons is easy enough with the up and down d-pad, but grenades are only cycled using the left d-pad and augmentations with only the right. So in order to go back to one, you have to cycle through all of them again. It can be difficult in the heat of battle. But again, I see no other way of doing it.
Of note, there are several things which make gameplay easier. The first is the ability to hit the start button and see an overlay of the objective point. So if you ever get lost, simply hit the start button and it will give you a direct line to the objective. I found it handy a couple of times and it's always better than diving to the internet for a walkthrough.
Also, each time a new weapon or grenade is acquired, the game pauses and gives instructions on how to use it. This is very convenient, but I saw no way of revisiting these instructions once they were shown. So pay attention the first time. Additionally the weapons and augmentations are gradually revealed to the player so as not to overwhelm.
The graphics of Project: Snowblind are a mixed bag. While the cinematics are well done and the scripted actions add a tremendous amount of gameplay experience, the graphics themselves are an obvious Playstation 2 port. Crystal Dynamics spent virtually no time updating the textures, models, or animations for the advanced hardware of the Xbox. That said, the graphics are not terrible by any means, they just aren't great. And that's where the ball is dropped. However, the animations are somewhat varied and it never gets old point-blanking a bad guy with a shotgun to watch him fly across the room. On the flip side, the basic animations such as walking and the transitions between animations are very choppy and less fluid than what I'd expect from an Xbox game.
In addition, the environments are detailed and while there is a bit of backtracking, it never feels like a cheap excuse to reuse assets.
The audio come fast and furious as the action surround you. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, the sounds are excellent, but again, not fantastic. The different weapons have a good audio kick, and the multitude of explosions will work even the best subwoofer in your audio system.
The voice-work is passable, but not good. Full of Asian stereotypes, all the voices could easily have been done by one person. As the main character, Nathan has less personality than Master Chief. part of this may be due to the cheesy dialogue, but a good voice actor should be able to make even the worst copy sound professional.
The multiplayer support of Project: Snowblind is one of the strongest elements of the game. While it's not as expansive as Halo 2 or MechAssault 2, it will entertain for many hours thanks again to the different types of weapons, gadgets, and augmentations available. Don't expect any of the squad aspects of Rainbow Six, this is a classic FPS with game types such as Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch. There are also the staple items such as Capture the flag, a juggernaut clone and a base destruction mode. The performance over Live is fine, with the framerate only taking a modest hit when the most effects are onscreen at once.
Project: Snowblind supports 16 players over Live, but doesn't have any single console split screen. However, the game does support clans and stats as well downloadable content and Live Aware status. We'll see how much Eidos supports the game with some good DLC.
Project: Snowblind is a fun game, but if you're expecting a Halo 2 killer, you won't find it here. However, the gadgets, augs, and weapons keep the gameplay varied. And the attention to detail in the campaign's scripted cinematic feel and the robust multiplayer make this game a must-own for fans of the FSP genre. Highly recommended.
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